The Effects of Electronic Monitoring on Offenders and Their Family Members
40 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2022
Electronic monitoring (EM) is a popular instrument to reduce large prison populations. Evidence on the effects of EM on criminal recidivism is, however, limited and it is unclear how this alternative to incarceration affects the labor market outcomes of offenders. Moreover, little is known about potential spillover effects on family members. We study the introduction of EM in Sweden in 1997 wherein offenders sentenced to up to three months in prison were given the possibility to avoid entering prison by substituting to EM. Our difference-in-differences estimates comparing the change in the prison inflow rate of eligible offenders to that of non-eligible offenders with slightly longer sentences show that the reform dramatically decreased incarcerations. Our main finding is that EM lowers criminal recidivism and improves offenders’ labor market outcomes. There is also some evidence of improvements in the short and intermediate run outcomes of the children of the offenders. The main channels through which EM operates seem to be by allowing offenders to maintain regular work and potentially also by reducing employer discrimination. Our calculations suggest that the social benefits of EM are at least six to nine times larger than the fiscal savings from reduced prison expenditure. This makes the welfare improvements from EM potentially much greater than what has been previously recognized.
Keywords: Incarceration, Spillovers, labor supply, Criminal Behavior
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